Monday, September 25, 2023

The Albums of 1973: Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle

Release Date: November 5, 1973

Produced by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos

Side One: The E Street Shuffle; 4th of July Ashbury Park (Sandy); Kitty's Back; Wild Billy's Circus Story

Side Two: Incident on 57th Street; Rosalita (Come Out Tonight); New York City Serenade

Bruce Springsteen's sophomore record The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Band built upon the homespun sound of his debut Greetings from Ashbury Park. 

"The E Street Shuffle" is lyrically similar to the New Jersey scenes on the first record, a celebratory opener full of consequence. "4th of July Ashbury Park" paints a portrait of a specific moment in time of the Jersey shore, cinematic in its scope with its heightened reality, even sounding archaic with references to "greasers" and "factory girls". The song is addressed to Sandy to whom the singer is confessing a heartbreak, and expressing a sense of time passing that will never return, at least for him. "Kitty's Back" is a bittersweet farewell to another legendary figure who enraptured the imagination of many in an ambitious composition moving from folk, R&B, and gospel. "Wild Billy's Circus Story" eulogizes a traveling circus in a curious hybrid of Dylan and Bradbury. 

Side two featured three 7+ minute epics critics often cite as Springsteen emerging as one of the great American songwriters. "Incident on 57th Street" tells a sprawling tragic love story of "Spanish Johnny" and "Puerto Rican Jane." The theatricality of the song would continues through Springsteen's work during the 1970s. "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is similar in sentiment, with Bruce switching to the first-person perspective. A standout from his early live shows, certain to send the audience out on a high note. "New York City Serenade" is the most abstract lyrically, more kaleidoscopic, and musically the most adventurous. 

While the record sold moderately, critical notices were strong, and it got a lot airplay in the Northeast. It's easy to view Wild & Innocent as mere prelude to Born to Run, but the album stands on its own with its sprawling romanticism and swashbuckling theatrics, one's left with no doubt Bruce and the band left it all on the record. 

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